The Champions

If you have enjoyed watching Yuen Biao kicking his opponents around in previous films, you should love watching him do the same with a soccer ball in this odd but quite funny film. This film mixes together some very fancy footwork and some amusing antics to create a pleasant and enjoyable film. Now I find soccer (or football to most of the world) as interesting to watch as an Al Gore campaign speech, but if soccer were as much fun as it is in this film I would be a huge fan. At times the game approaches something closer to kung-fu soccer as the teams truly battle it out on the field.
Yuen and Cheung Kwok Keung
Yuen begins the film as a farmer off in the provinces and he displays some great moves in picking up the eggs and performing other chores with his feet. Yuen soon gets into trouble by making a local big shot look a bit silly and he is forced to leave his uncle (Eddie Ko) and run off to HK.
Here he quickly runs into a dishonest lottery salesperson – Moon Lee – and her brother, Cheung Kwok Keung. The brother sees Yuen kick a ball and even though Yuen has never played before he asks him to join his team. It looked like Moon was going to have a fairly big role, but unfortunately she vanishes about halfway through the film.
Yuen also manages somehow to have a run in with both a watermelon and the number one HK club player, Dick Wei, and Wei ends up with his face smeared in both melon and mud. Later Yuen tries out for a soccer team that turns out to be Wei’s and he is accepted, but only so that Wei can torment him. Yuen becomes the ball boy but again he has a few scenes in which he shows amazing kicking skills whether it be kicking towels into the lockers or balls into a basket from 20-yards away. Eventually events drive Yuen to join another team and of course the inevitable showdown comes about. This game is a clash of banging bodies, dirty tricks, incredible footwork and more fun than any World Cup final that I have seen.
Both Yuen and Wei are simply amazing with a soccer ball. Both perform some wonderful dribbling, passing and shooting routines. Yuen has the Pele back to the goal – kick over the head – shot down to perfection.
Dick Wei
The film has some very funny physical comedy and sight gags along with a few minor fights. I am not sure who thought of putting Yuen and Dick Wei into a soccer comedy – certainly an oddity in HK films – but it turned out to be a terrific idea.

My rating for this film: 7.0

Kari, the foremost Yuen Biao expert in the world (and perhaps the only one!), was kind enough to send me the following information regarding the differences between the video format and the vcd version. I regretfully saw the video version.

"The cuts in the Tai Seng version occur, as I recall, in the locker room after the match which YB wins for Dick Wei's team by mistake -- there's a longer fight in the vcd version; in the dance hall, where a fight between Suen/Lee Tong and King has been excised; in the scene where their car is ambushed (again a longer and rather more vicious fight); and when Eddie Ko Hung turns up at the mansion -- there's a scene where he throws the trophies around and beats YB, which Suen then joins in on. There is also a very short scene between Moon Lee and YB near the beginning, with them talking very innocently outside her home just before he is invited in for the first time (I can see, just about, why the fights were snipped, but this one is just weird).

Of the YB films which are out on both vcd (or dvd) and tape, I think this one has the most disparities (discounting Righting Wrongs/Above the Law, the two versions of Zu, and Shanghai Express, all of which have both 'Hong Kong' and international versions. These Merry Souls [aka From the Great Beyond] has more comedy scenes from Eric Tsang in the vcd version)."